March 18, 2020 By Christian Murray
The Queens District Attorney’s office plans to facilitate the arraignment of defendants via video conferencing in an attempt to keep employees and alleged criminals safe from COVID-19.
Melinda Katz, Queens District Attorney, announced yesterday that her office has taken a number of steps to protect defendants, victims, witnesses and jurors safe from the COVID-19 virus.
“This office will continue to function and work with our criminal justice system to assure that the rights of both defendants and victims are safeguarded,” Katz said in a statement. “The responsibilities of my office are essential to continuing function of public safety and may be even more so as this crisis evolves.”
Katz said that her office is cooperating with courts and the defense bar to facilitate arraignments via video conferences.
She said that defendants will appear on video screens from within the confines of Central Booking if they are in good health. Sick defendants will be taken to Red Hook Community Court and be arraigned via video conferencing from there.
Defendants will still have the opportunity to meet with their defense attorney via video conferencing.
She said that her office will prioritize cases and plans to delay court appearances.
Katz said that members of her staff that are able to perform their jobs from home will work remotely—and internal meetings will take place via videoconferencing. Assistant District Attorneys will telework where ever possible, she said.
“The headlines are frightening, but we know that there are numerous things we can do to combat this growing epidemic,” Katz said. “My first priority is to make sure we continue to provide a fair criminal justice system. We are mandating changes will help keep everyone safe while at the same time ensuring the rights of defendants.”